Pennsylvania Workers and Their Unions Call For Action on Worker Safety and Health
(HARRISBURG) — Today, workers and their unions, supported by local governments around the Commonwealth, held seven press conferences across the Commonwealth asking for action in the General Assembly on House Bill 1082 and Senate Bill 464. Events were held in Philadelphia, Scranton, Reading, Harrisburg, Ebensburg, Pittsburgh, and Erie. More than 577,000 public sector workers in Pennsylvania deserve the same health and safety protections on the job as private-sector workers but are excluded from the protections of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Public-sector workers like first responders, PennDOT workers, healthcare workers and educators, serve the public good while experiencing higher rates of injury, illness and fatality.
The officers of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder stated, “Nearly every safety and health protection law on the books today, is there because working men and women, joined together in unions and fought and demanded action from employers and government. Still, that progress has been painfully slow. Which is why we assemble here in Philadelphia, and across the Commonwealth to show our commitment to protecting workers on the job will not be complete until every worker can go to work and return home safe and healthy at the end of the day. We wholeheartedly support House Bill 1082 and Senate Bill 464 to extend workplace safety and health protections to our public sector brothers and sisters, because who your employer is should not impact your right to a safe workplace.”
Kicking off the day’s public awareness campaign, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding, “Working people should feel safe on their jobs, it doesn’t make sense that this is something we have to lobby for.”
“Workplace safety is a right and should not be treated like a perk or fringe benefit. Every Pennsylvanian should have the right to safe and healthy working conditions,” stated Nicole Fuller, Executive Director of PhilaPOSH.
President of the Harrisburg Regional Central Labor Council David Gash said, “Why should public employees not have the same rights on the job as private sector workers? Everyone deserves protection on the job, regardless of who their employer is. We need the State General Assembly to take action now to protect all Pennsylvanians on the job.”
“SEIU Local 668 members are dedicated public employees who care deeply about the services they provide to the community,” said Steve Catanese, President of SEIU Local 668. “No worker should have to worry about their personal safety due to a lack of basic legal protections
at their workplace simply because it is not in the private sector. SEIU Local 668, is calling on the General Assembly to take action on HB 1082, this session and bring OSHA standards to our public workplaces.”
Across the State in Pittsburgh, Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council President Darrin Kelly added, “Workplace safety is a right and should not be treated like a political football. Every Pennsylvanian should have the right to safe and healthy working conditions. It is time for the General Assembly to pass this vital piece of legislation.”
“Public employees who work hard each day to make Pennsylvania the great state that it is deserve to be safe on the job and make it home to their family each night,” said Stephen Palonis of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85. “It’s time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to fulfill the promise OSHA made more than 40 years ago to provide all workers with safety on the job.”
Executive Director of AFSCME Council 13 David Fillman sent a message in support of the legislation, “AFSCME represents people performing some of the most dangerous jobs in the commonwealth. Just in the last few years, we have lost multiple PennDOT workers and a Millersville University groundskeeper in accidents that OSHA protections possibly could have averted. It is well past the time to stop treating public sector workers like second class citizens.”
Outside the Cambria County Courthouse, Dominic Mickey Sgro, Director of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 83 said at today’s Ebensburg press conference, “I’ve had two public employee members killed on the job in the last year. Instead of honoring them with our thoughts and prayers, let’s honor them by passing meaningful legislation that ensure no other working family in Pennsylvania needlessly loses a loved one.”
President of the Blair-Bedford Central Labor Council Bob Kutz added, “Since OSHA was enacted in 1971, workplace injury, illness, and fatality rates in private sector workplaces have dropped dramatically. Unfortunately, workers employed in Pennsylvania’s public sector still lack the same safety and health protections and suffer much higher rates of illness and injury on the job. It’s time for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to take action. It’s time for a vote on HB 1082.”
In Scranton, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 164 President Kevin McGee remarked, “I knew Jake Schwab, and I know the difference between public sector and private sector workers on the road. Private sector workers are protected on the job under law, while public workers, doing the same or similar work, do not have the same protections. Everybody has a right to go home the same way they came to work.”
“A private contractor and PennDOT employee working on the same highway can both be injured while using the same equipment. OSHA regulations cover the contracted worker, but not the PennDOT worker,” said Eric Schubert, Scranton Central Labor Union President, “All workers should have the same safety protection regardless of where they work. That is why the General Assembly needs to pass House Bill 1082 and Senate Bill 464.”
“The difference in working conditions between public and private sector workers is stark and that difference is reflected not only the data, but in the individual lives and communities that are impacted by workplace injury and death,” stated Tom Tosti, Director of AFSCME District Council 88 and President of the Bucks County Central Labor Council. “Injury or death on the job is not a risk that a worker should have to incur, or one that should require long and costly legal battles. The health and safety of workers is a systematic problem with a systematic solution, which is why we, along with our allies in organized labor and in local and state government are calling for a vote on the Jake Schwab Worker’s Safety Bill. Workers deserve to do their jobs in healthy and safe environments, no matter the sector.”
“As the President of the Berks-Reading Labor Council, welcome. Today we’ve gathered both union leadership and elected officials to highlight House Bill 1082, the Jake Schwab Worker Protection Bill, and Senate Bill 464” stated Bob Hoffmaster, President of the Berks-Reading Labor Council. “Jake as a mechanic with EMTA who lost his life in a workplace incident in November of 2015. As a public transit worker, Jake was not covered by the OSHA-style protections that could have prevented the incident or would have provided transparency by review. Passing House Bill 1082 and Senate Bill 464 would remedy this unacceptable divide for the 577,000 public sector workers in Pennsylvania.”
“We’re here today to bring attention to an injustice that is out there with public sector workers here in Pennsylvania,” stated Lehigh Valley Labor Council President and AFSCME Staff Representative, James Irwin. “Here in Pennsylvania, every worker does not have OSHA protections and every employer does not have to follow OSHA guidelines. At a time when collective bargaining is under attack, safety and healthy working conditions should not be, it must be a guarantee for all workers and should not be treated like a political football. Every Pennsylvanian should have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. House Bill 1082 will do just that.”
“Why should public sector workers be treated any less than private sector workers? OSHA protects the workers so they go home safe everyday,” said Erie-Crawford CLC President Jack Lee.